Thou Shalt and Drafting

One of my students, Ren Owen, recently wrote a paper about drafting (his chosen profession).   I was so impressed with one of his insights that I requested to share it here.  The following are his words, but are edited for clarity.


I was drafting some details for an engineer and on his hand drawn copy I thought that maybe he had misspelled a word, so I used the word will. When he red-lined the drawing, he changed the word will to shall.

I thought it was strange because in my experience shall was a biblical word.

Thou shall not steal.

Thou shall not commit adultery.

I thought that it was funny and seemed foreign that when describing building material the word shall would be used.

The rebar shall be ½ inches in diameter.

The floor joist shall be placed 24 inches on center.

I laughed it off, but then I started noticing how often shall was used in the details. The more I thought about it, I realized that maybe the reason for using the word was because of its relation to the Bible. I figured that this was because of the severity of what could happen if a contractor didn’t  follow the specifications on a structure.  It  could be costly, even to the loss of life.  So, the builders should consider the specifications as if they were commandments.

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